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Safina battles ahead; Nadal back on the prowl the results

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POETRY IN MOTION: Rafael Nadal was all power and poise as he dispatched Richard Gasquet to start his pursuit of the only Grand Slam title missing in his collection.
POETRY IN MOTION: Rafael Nadal was all power and poise as he dispatched Richard Gasquet to start his pursuit of the only Grand Slam title missing in his collection.

Dementieva ousted; Venus, Federer advance; Clijsters gets the better of Bartoli

NEW YORK: World number one Dinara Safina of Russia advanced to the third round of the US Open on Thursday by defeating Germany’s 67th-ranked Kristina Barrois 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3.

In a near-replay of a first-round struggle Safina had against Australian teen Olivia Rogowska, the 23-year-old Russian sprayed 38 unforced errors, double faulted 15 times, screamed at herself often and was her own worst enemy.

A Safina loss would have seen her match the earliest exit of any women’s top seed in US Open history, last year’s second-round loss by Serbian Ana Ivanovic to French qualifier Julie Coin.

But another rocky roller-coaster performance by Safina, who has yet to win a Grand Slam title, did little to secure her against critics who say that the world’s top player is US second seed Serena Williams, the Australian Open and Wimbledon champion seeking a 12th Slam crown and second US Open title in a row.

Talking to herself during changeovers and screaming at herself after blunders, Safina nonetheless rallied to buzz through the second set in 33 minutes, setting up another third-set drama.

Fourth seed Elena Dementieva of Russia crashed out losing 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to American teenager Melanie Oudin in a second round tie.

Earlier on Wednesday, all eyes were on two of the most famous pairs of knees in tennis as Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams were back doing what they do best at the U.S. Open — obliterating their opponents.

As the cameras zoomed in on their stricken joints, with both former world number ones struggling with tendinitis in recent months, Venus skipped into round three with a 6-4, 6-2 win over fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Less than two hours later, a merciless Nadal subjected an unfortunate Richard Gasquet, who was making his own comeback following a doping ban, to a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 first-round mauling.

Safin, Santoro exit

The Grand Slam stage, however, became a poorer place on Wednesday when Marat Safin walked out of Flushing Meadows — which he likened to a “zoo” — for the last time with a final wave to his adoring fans.

Never again will spectators at the four Majors catch a glimpse of the brilliance or entertaining antics of Safin after the 2000 champion bowed out in the first round following a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 defeat by Austrian Juergen Melzer.

On a day of farewells, 36-year-old Fabrice Santoro’s 69th and final Major outing ended in defeat.

Comeback mum Kim Clijsters completed a forgettable day for the French when she beat 14th seed Marion Bartoli 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

This year’s Open is turning out to be a family affair as World No.1 Roger Federer and Australian Lleyton Hewitt will get a chance to compare notes on how to survive the demands of the tour with young children in tow after they set up an intriguing third-round showdown.

In a break with U.S. Open traditions, the evening session kicked off with the men’s match between five-times champion Federer and Simon Greul.

The pesky German journeyman provided Federer with a few jitters when he held two set points in the second set and a 3-0 lead in the third but in the end could not prevent the Swiss from chalking up a 6-3, 7-5, 7-5 win.

Women’s holder Serena Williams was given the honour of closing the night’s programme and the second seed was in no mood to hang around for too long as she overwhelmed Hungary’s Melinda Czink 6-1, 6-1.

Third seed Nadal stepped out for his first Grand Slam match in over three months without wearing any strapping around his knees and the manner of his victory suggested that he did not turn up in New York simply to show off his new sleeker haircut.

“I’m back here to try my best,” asserted Nadal, who skipped the defence of his Wimbledon title because of his injury.

THE RESULTS

Prefix denotes seeding"

Women’s singles: Second round: 1-Dinara Safina (Rus) bt Kristina Barrois (Ger) 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3; Gisela Dulko (Arg) bt 30-Alona Bondarenko (Ukr) 6-4, 6-0; 13-Nadia Petrova (Rus) bt Julie Coin (Fra) 6-4, 7-6(3); 24-Sorana Cirstea (Rom) bt Stephanie Dubois (Can) 6-4, 5-7, 6-4; Melanie Oudin (USA) bt 4-Elena Dementieva (Rus) 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Kirsten Flipkens (Bel) bt 20-Anabel Medina Garrigues (Esp) 6-1, 6-3; 7-Vera Zvonareva (Rus) bt Anna Chakvetadze (Rus) 3-6, 6-1, 6-1; 3-Venus Williams (USA) bt Methanie Mattek-Sands (USA) 6-4, 6-2; Maria Kirilenko (Rus) bt 12-Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4; 8-Victoria Azarenka (Blr) bt Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Cze) 6-2, 6-1; Kim Clijsters (Bel) bt 14-Marion Bartoli (Fra) 5-7, 6-1, 6-2; Vania King (USA) bt 15-Samantha Stosur (Aus) 7-5, 6-4; 22-Daniela Hantuchova (Svk) bt Timea Bacsinszky (Sui) 5-7, 6-2, 6-1; 2-Serena Williams (USA) bt Melinda Czink (Hun) 6-1, 6-1.

Men’s singles: Second round: 1-Roger Federer (Sui) bt Simon Greul (Ger) 6-3, 7-5, 7-5; 31-Lleyton Hewitt (Aus) bt Juan Ignacio Chela (Esp) 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

First round: Andreas Beck (Ger) bt Evgeny Korolev (Rus) 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 2-6, 6-4; Jurgen Melzer (Aut) bt Marat Safin (Rus) 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4; Nicolas Kiefer (Ger) bt Michael Llodra (Fra) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4; 24-Juan Carlos Ferrero (Esp) bt Fabrice Santoro (Fra) 6-4, 6-3, 6-3; 3-Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Richard Gasquet (Fra) 6-2, 6-2, 6-3; Robby Ginepri (USA) bt Andrei Pavel (Rom) 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-0; 6-Juan Martin Del Potro (Arg) bt Juan Monaco (Arg) 6-3, 6-3, 6-1; 18-David Ferrer (Esp) bt Alberto Martin (Esp) 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3; 9-Gilles Simon (Fra) bt Daniel Gimeno (Esp) 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-3. — Agencies

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